Thursday, January 18, 2018

Shield of the Gods

Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations
Shield of the Gods by Christopher L. Bennett
Release date: June 16th 2017
Read June 25th 2017

Previous book (Department of Temporal Investigations): Time Lock
Next book (Department of Temporal Investigations): 

E-book (Kindle): | |

Spoilers ahead for Shield of the Gods!

Publisher's description:
The stalwart agents of the Department of Temporal Investigations have tracked down many dangerous artifacts, but now they face a greater, more personal challenge: retrieving a time-travel device stolen from their own vault by a rogue agent of the Aegis, a powerful, secretive group that uses its mastery of time to prevent young civilizations from destroying themselves. Blaming the Aegis itself for a tragedy yet to come, this renegade plans to use the stolen artifact to sabotage its efforts in the past, no matter what the cost to the timeline. Now the DTI’s agents must convince the enigmatic Aegis to work alongside them in order to protect history—but they must also wrestle with the potential consequences of their actions, for preserving the past could doom countless lives in the future!

My thoughts:

To some fans, "Star Trek" has a very narrow definition: The voyages of a starship named Enterprise, seeking out new life and new civilizations. With Deep Space Nine and Voyager, and more recently, Discovery, that definition has expanded quite a bit, showing that there is room for all kinds of stories within this universe. Ultimately, Star Trek is just a setting; it is a vast playground in which many different kinds of stories can be told.

One of the more abstract settings for Star Trek stories is within the Department of Temporal Investigations. This agency of the United Federation of Planets was established in the Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations," and has become a source of fascination ever since.

Agents Dulmer and Lucsly are the only two faces of the organization we've seen in canon Trek, but author Christopher L. Bennett has crafted a rich set of stories about the Department of Temporal Investigations in two novels, Watching the Clock and Forgotten History, as well as three (so far) e-book novellas, The Collectors, Time Lock, and the subject of today’s review, Shield of the Gods.

In canon Trek, Dulmer and Lucsly are the only people we've seen from the enigmatic Department of Temporal Investigations, but author Christopher L. Bennett has fleshed out the department and introduced us to a variety of characters who work to maintain the Federation's temporal integrity.

Shield of the Gods continues the story from Time Lock, in which a former Aegis agent, Daiyar, stole an untraceable temporal warp drive from the DTI's vault containing temporal artifacts from across the galaxy and throughout history. The agents of the DTI must track her down and stop her from completing her plan, whatever it may be!

What follows is probably the most introspective, character-driven story so far in the Department of Temporal Investigations series. Christopher Bennett has an uncanny ability to lay bare a character's deepest feelings and motivations in a way that is surprisingly moving. Rather than being a one-note villain, Daiyar is a complex character who evokes real emotions from the reader. I found myself sympathizing with her in her motivations, if not necessarily in her means. She also has a well-defined character arc, which is doubly impressive given the fact that the page count for this novella is significantly less than the average Star Trek novel.

Similarly, this novella dives deep into the character of Ranjea, a Deltan agent of the DTI. This is a character who has been around since the first DTI novel, and whose story comes to a very interesting conclusion in this installment. His ultimate fate feels very Doctor Who-ish, which is certainly appropriate with a series as timey-wimey as this one!

Like Lt. Ilia from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (pictured), Agent Ranjea is a Deltan, possessing very strong sexual drives.

Having the e-book-exclusive novellas has been a boon to the more obscure parts of the Trek universe. I don't know that Department of Temporal Investigations is a "big" enough title to maintain an on-going series of full-length novels, but the e-book novella format seems perfectly suited to it. We can only hope that this format will continue after the successful re-negotiation of the Simon & Schuster Star Trek books license (fingers crossed)!

Final thoughts:

There is a lot to recommend this latest entry in the Department of Temporal Investigations series. A huge plot in which civilizations hang in the balance is the backdrop to a very human, introspective story about how individual lives are affected by galaxy-spanning decisions. Overall, a lovely story that makes the reader empathize with the characters in the most surprising ways. An unexpected but touching resolution caps off the story, making me eager for more tales set in this somewhat unorthodox corner of Trek continuity!

More about Shield of the Gods:

Also by Christopher L. Bennett:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

Next up is a classic from the Trek literary universe: Prime Directive by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Literary Treks 216: He Should Have Served Prune Juice

The Final Reflection by John M. Ford

Mass-market paperback: | |
E-book (Kindle): | |

The Klingons: No other species in Star Trek has gone through so many changes over the years as this race of warriors. In 1984, author John M. Ford set out to write the definitive book about Klingon society, and while Trek canon has gone in a completely different direction since, The Final Reflection still strikes a chord with many Trek fans with its close examination of an alien culture that is the antithesis of the Federation.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson discuss The Final Reflection. We talk about a truly alien culture, the differences between the Klingons in The Final Reflection and Trek canon since, the Perpetual Game, the Federation's duplicity, the novel within the novel, the inspiration that The Final Reflection provided to the creators of Star Trek: Discovery, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news segment, we review two new comics: Boldly Go #15 and New Visions #19. We also discuss the apparent lack of new releases from Simon and Schuster in 2018.

Literary Treks 216: He Should Have Served Prune Juice
Star Trek #18: The Final Reflection by John M. Ford


Previous episode: Literary Treks 215: No Pointy Sideburns
Next episode: Literary Treks 217: Agree to Disagree

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Literary Treks 215: No Pointy Sideburns

The Gold Key Archives: Volume 4, Part 1

Hardcover: | |
E-book (Kindle): | |

From haunted asteroids to weird cyborg mummies, the Star Trek Gold Key comics are certainly very different from your normal, everyday Trek. However, these oddball comics are loved by many fans, and it can be a lot of fun to take a peek back at the Trek that might have been, as envisioned by comic book writers and artists in the 60s and 70s.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther discuss the first three stories in The Gold Key Archives Volume 4. We talk about troubling behavior by Kirk in "The Haunted Asteroid," a spoiled rotten prince whom everyone wants to murder in "A World Gone MAD," and an ancient mystery that threatens to turn the Enterprise crew into cyborgs in "The Mummies of Heitius VII!"

In the news segment, we welcome Ben Greet, author of one of the contributions to Outside In Makes It So: 174 New Perspectives on 174 Star Trek TNG Stories by 174 Writers.

Literary Treks 215: No Pointy Sideburns
Star Trek: The Gold Key Archives Vol. 4, Part 1


Previous episode: Literary Treks 214: A Pair of Richards
Next episode: Literary Treks 216: He Should Have Served Prune Juice

Monday, January 8, 2018

Best Destiny

Star Trek
Best Destiny by Diane Carey
Published November 1991
Read November 21st 2016

Previous book (TOS - Hardcover): Probe

Next book (TOS - Hardcover): Shadows on the Sun

Spoilers ahead for Best Destiny!

From the back cover:
As James T. Kirk prepares to retire from a long and illustrious Starfleet career, events in a distant part of the Federation draw him back to a part of the galaxy he had last visited as a young man, a mysterious world called Faramond whose name takes Kirk on a journey back to his youth. At sixteen, Kirk is troubled, estranged from his father, and has a bleak future. However, a trip into space with Kirk's father George and Starfleet legend Captain Robert April changes James Kirk's life forever, when a simple voyage becomes a deadly trap. Soon Kirk and his father find themselves fighting for their lives against a vicious and powerful enemy. Before the voyage ends, father and son will face life and death together, and James T. Kirk will get a glimpse of the future and his own best destiny.

My thoughts:

"Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny; anything else is a waste of material."
- Captain Spock to Admiral Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Insights into the life of young James T. Kirk are rare throughout Star Trek history, at least until the 2009 Star Trek film by J.J. Abrams. Sure, we got hints here and there about his time at the academy; we know he was tormented by an upperclassman named Finnegan, and that he was considered to be a "stack of books with legs," deadly serious, focused on his studies and excelling at the Academy. But what about Jim Kirk, the boy? How did he get from his youth in Iowa to become one of the most famous captains in Starfleet history?

Best Destiny explores the life of young James T. Kirk, something that canon Trek stayed away from until Star Trek 2009.

Best Destiny by Diane Carey sets out to provide that answer. It's no surprise that the writers of Star Trek 2009 have said that this novel served as inspiration for their version of young James T. Kirk, given what we learn of the future captain's troubled youth. Rebellious and unfocused, the young Jimmy Kirk is on a path that his parents fear will lead to an unfulfilled life at best and an early grave at worst. His father, George Kirk, takes Jimmy on an adventure in space in a last-ditch attempt to put his life on a different course. The experiences he lives through during this mission will serve to shape the man he will become in the future.

I first read Best Destiny years ago as a young man myself, and the book made a significant impact on me. I was certainly not headed down a dark path like Kirk in this novel, but it still influenced me as a young reader to take stock of what is important in life and the effects that early experiences can have on one's future. As an adult, re-reading this book now has allowed me to appreciate it even more; Diane Carey's ability to tell a vivid and compelling story is showcased quite expertly here.

George Kirk takes his son Jimmy aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise during its early voyages under Captain Robert April

Jim's struggle for survival aboard a Starfleet shuttlecraft with his father George, Captain Robert April, and a number of other memorable crew members from the U.S.S. Enterprise feature moments that have stuck with me all these years, and upon re-reading, I was brought immediately back to the feelings they evoked as a young reader. The events that Jim experiences are horrific and serve to mould him into a more thoughtful and caring person, and Carey does an excellent job of conveying this to the reader.

The primary antagonist of the story is a foil to James Kirk named Roy Moss. He appears as a young man in the "past" section of the story, and as an older man in the "present" story as well. In many ways, he is a mirror of Kirk, growing up but leading a very different life. While Kirk became an honorable and principled Starfleet officer, Moss used his genius in the service of criminal enterprise, becoming twisted and corrupted. This was an interesting character, and it is somewhat unfortunate that his name inadvertently made me think of The I.T. Crowd every time it came up.

I can't be the only person who thinks of these two when I hear the name "Roy Moss."

Best Destiny was a favorite book of mine as a young man, and I'm happy to say that it holds up upon re-reading. There is a lot to relate to in the pages of this book, and Diane Carey writes her characters with a realism that is very much appreciated. Readers will be able to put themselves in Kirk's place in much of this story, which makes the conflicts that he faces feel very real and compelling.

Final thoughts:

Best Destiny tells the story of young James T. Kirk and what made him the heroic captain we know him to be. This is an excellent story that has held up in the couple of decades since I first read it, and I recommend it for any fan of Star Trek novels. Diane Carey has constructed a compelling story, both in the flashbacks to Jim's early years and in the crisis that Captain Kirk and his crew face shortly after the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It is still one of my favorite Star Trek novels.

More about Best Destiny:

Also by Diane Carey:

My next read:

Next up is my review of Department of Temporal Investigations: Shield of the Gods in my attempt to get caught up on the new releases from last year!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Literary Treks 214: A Pair of Richards

Prometheus: Fire with Fire
by Bernd Perplies & Christian Humberg

Mass-market paperback: | |
E-book (Kindle): |

Terrorist attacks are rocking the Federation and the Klingon Empire, and the U.S.S. Prometheus teams up with the I.K.S. Bortas to investigate. However, as the investigation progresses, not all is as it seems. Are the attacks the actions of a small, militant religious group, the result of covert actions by the Typhon Pact, or something even more sinister and deadly?

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Dan Gunther and Bruce Gibson talk about the first novel in the Prometheus series, Fire with Fire. We discuss the first original German language Star Trek novel and its translation, the Prometheus and its unique abilities, the terrorism allegory, the book's relation to the on-going Pocket Books novel continuity, the role of the Klingons, and wrap up with our final thoughts and ratings.

In the news segment, we talk about the upcoming third Discovery novel, Fear Itself, and discuss some exciting news from the world of IDW Trek comics!

Literary Treks 214: A Pair of Richards
Prometheus: Fire with Fire by Bernd Perplies & Christian Humberg


Previous episode: Literary Treks 213: Suck on That, Gaila
Next episode: Literary Treks 215: No Pointy Sideburns

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Trek Lit 2017: Year in Review

2017: A Year of Change for Trek Lit

2017: another year gone! The time is flying by faster and faster each year, it seems. Let's take a quick look at the year that was.

The biggest news in the Trek universe this past year was, of course, the arrival of the newest Star Trek television series: Star Trek: Discovery, and with a new series comes new books! The end of September saw the release of the first book in the Discovery series, Desperate Hours by David Mack.

There were many other novels to choose from this past year besides Discovery, however, and the year started off in a typical manner: with an Original Series novel, The Face of the Unknown by Christopher L. Bennett. Interestingly, this was the only TOS novel this year, a marked changed from previous TOS-heavy release schedules.

Headlong Flight was next, a multiverse-spanning TNG adventure by Dayton Ward. Following that was a continuation of the Deep Space Nine story with The Long Mirage by David R. George III. Then, in March, came a very interesting story: Section 31: Control by David Mack. This story served to change the Trek universe forever, and fan reaction to this story was certainly mixed.

Because of changes to the release schedule thanks to both the shifting premiere date of Star Trek: Discovery and the delays surrounding Kirsten Beyer's Voyager novel, Architects of Infinity, there was an unprecedented gap in the Pocket Books' release schedule at the end of April. Unfortunately, it would not be the last.

Releases resumed at the end of May with another TNG story by Dayton Ward, Hearts and Minds. Enigma Tales was next, another in a series of truly excellent Deep Space Nine stories by Una McCormack. July was yet another gap in the release schedule, followed by Patterns of Interference by Christopher L. Bennett, the latest in his Enterprise: Rise of the Federation series.

September featured what appeared to be the start of a new miniseries: Deep Space Nine: Gamma: Original Sin by David R. George III, showcasing the voyages of the U.S.S. Robinson in the Gamma Quadrant under the command of Ben Sisko. Released on the same day was the aforementioned Discovery: Desperate Hours by David Mack.

October was yet another gap in the release schedule, with Titan: Fortune of War by David Mack rounding out the Pocket Books' schedule at the end of November.

Also released at the end of November, from Titan Books, was the English translation of the first ever original Trek novel to be published in German: Star Trek: Prometheus: Fire with Fire.

A pair of e-book exclusive novellas were also released in 2017, down from three from the previous year. Department of Temporal Investigations: Shield of the Gods by Christopher L. Bennett came out in June, while another DS9 Ferengi adventure by Paula M. Block & Terry J. Erdmann featured in November: I, The Constable, which has possibly the best Trek book cover art ever.

Last year, I lamented the fact that other projects had disrupted my productivity with regards to this site. This year, I'll put it in more succinct terms: it kicked my ass! I am quite a bit behind on getting reviews done, but my goal is to get caught up in the next couple of months. For the first time, I have also decided to do video reviews of the new releases, which has put me a bit behind. However, as I get better at the whole video thing, I hope to get them out a lot faster! The new releases promise to be a lot fewer this year, which is unfortunate, but it will allow me to catch up. More on that later.

2017 was a year of big gains for my YouTube channel, Kertrats Productions! While I didn't accomplish all of my goals, I'm quite pleased with the growth I've experienced, and I'm looking forward to more success in 2018.

My involvement with the Literary Treks Podcast on was also a huge part of my year, and along with co-host Bruce Gibson, we have interviewed many Trek authors and covered many different areas in the Star Trek books and comics universe. Click here to take a look at Literary Treks and see what we got up to in the world of podcasts!

Check out below for the list of reviews I did this past year. Again, I am quite a bit behind, but I am working to catch up. The reviews of new releases are marked with an asterisk and link to my video reviews on YouTube. I will be filling out the new release links as I complete them over the next month or two.


*The Face of the Unknown by Christopher L. Bennett (Star Trek: The Original Series)


The Buried Age: A Tale of the Lost Era by Christopher L. Bennett (Star Trek: The Next Generation)


*Headlong Flight by Dayton Ward (Star Trek: The Next Generation)


Avenger by William Shatner with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens (Shatnerverse)
*The Long Mirage by David R. George III (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
Homecoming by Christie Golden (Star Trek: Voyager)


Kobayashi Maru by Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels (Star Trek: Enterprise)
*Control by David Mack (Star Trek: Section 31)


The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor's Wing by Michael A. Martin (Star Trek: Enterprise)


Full Circle by Kirsten Beyer (Star Trek: Voyager)


*Hearts and Minds by Dayton Ward (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Unfinished New Release Reviews (to be completed soon!)

Best Trek novel of 2017:

While I didn't get every new release reviewed in time for the end of the year, I did read them all. There are some wonderful stories in the selection of Trek novels in 2017, and as always, picking a clear winner is very difficult. Two in particular that rose to the top were Section 31: Control by David Mack and Deep Space Nine: Enigma Tales by Una McCormack. However, in the end, Control edged out the victory due to the sheer audacity of the story it told and the amazing drama that unfolded in its pages. So here it is, officially, the best Star Trek novel of 2017:

Star Trek: Section 31: Control by David Mack!

The story of the fall of Section 31 is an incredible one, and the effect that the artificial intelligence named Urei has on Star Trek history as a whole has to be read to be believed. This was a page-turner from start to finish, and the story will have reverberating effects throughout the Trek lit-verse for many more books to come!

As always, let's finish up by taking a look at next year in Trek Lit.

Sadly, things are in a bit of a rough state at the moment. At last word, Pocket Books and CBS were still negotiating their new contract, which has left everything in a sort of limbo. The only novels this gives us on the schedule for next year from Pocket Books are two Star Trek: Discovery novels, Drastic Measures by Dayton Ward and Fear Itself by James Swallow, and the Kirsten Beyer Voyager novel Architects of Infinity, which has been delayed a couple of times thanks to Beyer's much busier schedule working in the writers' room on Star Trek: Discovery.

Drastic Measures features the Discovery characters Georgiou and Lorca dealing with the events on Tarsus IV perpetrated by "Kodos the Executioner," first referenced in the TOS episode "The Conscience of the King." It is set to be released on February 6th.

Fear Itself will be released later in the year with a street date of June 5th. The story centers around the Kelpien character Saru and his experiences before joining the crew of Discovery.

Architects of Infinity is set to be released on March 27th. No word yet on whether or not the promised follow-up novel, To Lose the Earth, is still scheduled for release.

In addition to the Pocket Books novels, we will also be getting two other Star Trek novels this year, completing the trilogy of Star Trek: Prometheus novels from Titan Books. Book two, The Root of All Rage, is due for release on May 29th, while book three, In the Heart of Chaos, is slated for November release.

For the most part, 2017 has been a pretty good year for Trek Lit, and an amazing year for Star Trek in general with the release of the newest Trek television show. At last, Star Trek is back on TV where it belongs! I have a plan to get things back on track for Trek Lit Reviews, and I have many plans for the Kertrats Productions YouTube channel. Stay tuned, and as always, live long and prosper!